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Making of the MindTree

PART I - Page 2 of 5 | Previous Page

At the empty Karavali Restaurant (it was not yet time for the afternoon crowd), KK and I filled each other with the details of our life goals. We did not see ourselves as climbing our respective corporate ladders. We agreed that there was space to create an outstanding service based solution focused company, we agreed that the key is to create significant shared wealth, we agreed that the biggest kick in life is to make extra-ordinary differences in the lives of ordinary people and we agreed that we must share our success with the larger society in which we are all born. By the time lunch was over, we decided that till we are ready to leave our respective jobs, we would meet every weekend and sculpt the future. Many months after, KK told me that the day was his son Abhi's birthday. He also said, unusual, propitious events usually happened on that day. It turned out to be true. Having made our tryst with destiny, the next step had to be something concrete.

As we kept meeting each other, we realized that the juvenile dream needed the blessing of a wiser man. We knew everyone worth knowing in the industry. But at moments like this, it is difficult to decide whom to approach. We needed someone wise, someone who will not mock our dreams, someone who will bring out a sense of realism and at the same time hold the information in trust till it is time to hold the baby out to the world. I suggested the name of Professor N. Balasubramanian at the Indian Institute of Management. Having headed corporate finance functions in companies like Britannia and Wipro, he had taken premature retirement and settled down to a life of contemplation and teaching at the IIM. I had seen him closely at work and respected his saintly detachment. He was an understated man who had a kind, unassuming mind. KK and I went to see him at his office at the Institute and told him about the dream. He listened to us in silence for the most part, neither encouraging, nor giving any undue word of caution. KK and I had a thousand questions - from how much funding to look for - to how to locate the ideal venture capitalist partner, and whether it makes more sense to invest money in land and building or to rent space! At the end of our passionate spill, he asked us to write down a business plan first. He explained with patience that money was just a means to an end. We needed to figure out what end we wanted to pursue and that, he said, would determine the financial strategy. It is the vision that needed sculpting first; the financial strategy would emerge based on that. Go to some place, sit quietly and work out a business plan, he said. As KK and I got up to go, he called us back and gave one mantra. “When you make your business plan”, he said, “underestimate the income and overestimate the expenses”. In any enterprise, it is always a happy thing if your income exceeded your expectations but if your costs ever exceed your expectations, boy, you are in trouble. Dr. Bala promised to see us whenever we needed to. He had no expectations from us and just wanted to see us do well.

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